Each store offered a wide selection of merchandise with special emphasis placed of fashion apparel, accessories and fashion home furnishings. This was aimed at middle and upper-middle income consumers. In addition to its department store operations the company maintained a partnership position in five operating shopping center ventures. Each of these centers had a retail outlet of the company.
The store chain was formed in 1914 out of the bankruptcy of H.B. Claflin & Company. Its stores were separated into two store chains, Associated Dry Goods - with brands such as Lord & Taylor and Hengerer's - and Mercantile Stores Company. In May 1998 Mercantile Stores was acquired by Dillard's of Little Rock, Arkansas, for $2.9 billion. Later that year, Dillard's announced plans to sell off 26 of the newly acquired locations where there already were Dillard's stores.